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Feb. 2, 2006

To Owners, Prospect Hotel Like Discovering Gold
By Patti Richter of the Daily Courier

PROSPECT - When Karen and Fred Wickman bought the Prospect Hotel in March, they just felt it was meant to be.

For years, the couple from Fairfield, Calif., dreamed of running a bed and breakfast inn with Victorian style. They also dreamed of one day living in  a log cabin-style home. 

"And this place had both," Karen said. "And three waterfalls within walking distance. We couldn't believe our good fortune!"

The 10-room hotel was built in 1892 by Albion H. Boothby to serve people traveling to Crater Lake. Soon, word spread about the hotel and the tantalizing food served there by Jennie, Albion's wife, and it became the community's center for dances, parties and town events. Over the years, famous writers, including Jack London and William Jennings Bryan, along with President Theodore Roosevelt, spent the night at the hotel.

The Boothbys sold the hotel to the Grieve family in 1912, and they added a gas station and store, as well as building cabins behind the hotel. Through the years, the hotel thrived when the economy was good and suffered when it wasn't. The hotel has had several owners, including Mike and Jo Turner, who sold the hotel to the Wickmans after running it since 1998.

But buying the hotel, the motel and the log home behind it on 5.5 acres wasn't as simple as plunking down the cash. The Turners wanted to make sure the Wickmans were really right for Prospect.

"We went through an interview with the former owners," said Fred. "They wanted to make sure we would be a good fit for the hotel and the town. They wanted to make sure we would be able to make it work."

So far, it seems to be.

The Wickmans, along with their three children, a daughter who is a freshman at Prospect High School and two sons, ages 18 and 19 moved to the community looking for a lifestyle change.

"It is a total change from our other lives. The town has a very relaxed atmosphere. It's the epitome of small-town America," said Karen, a registered nurse.

"We're still learning the area," Fred said, 'but whenever there is an event, the whole town gets involved. it's just a simpler way of life here."

"The community has been very open and accepting of us. They want the hotel to do well," he added. "Part of that is because when the hotel does well, so does everyone else. But they genuinely want us to to well."

Owning the hotel has been a steep learning curve for the former businessman who helped entrepreneurs get businesses up and running. Almost as soon as they took over the hotel, the Wickmans were dealing with their busiest time of year, late spring and summer.

"This is not an eight-hour job. You work really hard," Karen said. "It's more of a lifestyle, so we are learning to pace ourselves."

A normal day starts at 5 a.m. and ends about midnight. They also make a weekly trip to Medford to pick up supplies, including about 1,500 pounds of food for the restaurant.

The Wickmans haven't made many changes to the hotel or the rooms. "It's beautiful like it is," Karensaid. "We just need to primp a few things and put our touch on it, personalize it a little."

One of their biggest struggles is maintaining the hotel's character, because it's on both the national and state historical registers, Fred said. Making any changes to stay current with modern building codes is a time-consuming process. One project they hope to complete is to renovate the former gas station on the edge of their property and turn it into a community meeting place.

Fred has also been working to expand the hotel's Internet presence, especially in the late fall and early spring. "We are working to get the word out," he said. "It's a double-edged sword. We want to get everyone here, but we don't want it to change."

To make a reservation or to find out more about the restaurant, call (800) 944-6490 or (541) 560-3664. Rooms range from $50 to $150 a night for the motel and hotel.


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